(image courtesy: travel.india.com)
Women & the elusive wanderlust
Wanderlust is broadly defined as the ‘n. ~desire or craving to travel to distant and unknown places’ in your average dictionary! However when it comes to the ‘average Indian woman’ this definition needs to be tweaked quite a bit…. Reading somewhat like this -‘n. ~a desire or craving to travel to distant and unknown places WITH any male friend or spouse capable of taking good care of you and keeping you in posh hotels’…..that’s Wanderlust for you, my dear single & proudly independent Indian lady in your mid-twenties! 😉 Or that’s what our parents would have us believe!
Mr.’Khaki-shorts-wearing-firangi’ & me!
One time I was traveling from Kolkata to Bangalore (alone, I must admit, but when it’s for work and you have lived for many years in a city, your parents let you have that extended leash of freedom!) and in the airport I ran into this very tall,very English looking man with a khaki shorts & travel-hat in place…. To my naive eyes, it was as if Harrison Ford had landed there incognito and right out of an episode of Indiana Jones… Nevertheless, I pretended to stand nonchalant in the boarding queue, hoping I looked suddenly like some sultry Indian actress on her way to a shoot (yah, that’s how naive I was!)
So, Mr.’Ford’ had a book in his hand and was quietly standing behind me in the queue when all of a sudden I felt a tug at my luggage and decided to look behind to find his suitcase clashing against mine… ‘Whoops, sorry Ma’am!’ Oh the SMILE…What wouldn’t I give to have that smile bestowed on me again… ‘That’s okay! Happens!’ I smiled with equal enthusiasm fervently hoping there was nothing stuck in my teeth…
‘So, you traveling alone?’He tipped his handsome head to one side and smiled again. ‘Yep, actually I am a system administrator, working for IBM right now! What about you? Here on work?’ I regretted instantly every damn word that came out of my over-excited mouth (did he ASK for your job profile,moron?! & does he LOOK like he’s going to a business meet in that shorts and the hat??!) I was relieved when he looked impressed apparently, ‘Oh you don’t look like you work at all, at such a young age, LOVELY!’ I was on my toes again, wanting to be stranded there at the airport with him for the rest of the day, wait, make that LIFE! ‘And no, I am actually traveling around India at the moment, just visited the Taj Mahal, going to meet a friend in Bangalore who will be taking me to Kerala next!’
I asked him how he liked India till now, not expecting anything but kind words of course ( he couldn’t possibly tell me just how horrible the trains and toilets were, nah, he would keep all that for when he went back to his own country and sat down to give reviews on TripAdvisor probably!;) ) . ‘Oh it’s just amazing out here, wonderful people like you all around, so much warmth and the history is mind-blowing! ‘ We were separated at that instant for security checks and I hurried out of the cubicle hoping he wouldn’t disappear. I was happy to see him walking towards me after sometime.
We spoke for some more time and I told him which places to visit in Kerala, feeling grateful to God for the trip I’d taken with some friends in college! He thanked me with a handshake and a polite nod of the head and asked me ‘So are you a traveler?’ I really don’t remember what I replied to that because I felt a pang of self-pity that reverberates to this day in my soul. Mr.’Ford’ never told me his name but he gave me something to think about for a long time after.
‘Traveler’ at heart?
So, am I a traveler at heart? I would like to think I am… I know which places I would love to visit, I know the best seasons to visit them and I sometimes imagine the kind of clothes I would wear when I visit all the places I love…. A flowery dress in Paris, a denim shorts on the African Safari, a long overcoat in Ireland or maybe a sarong clad bikini in Seychelles! And these are just the very few of the very basic destinations from across shores…. I have a longer list within Indian borders ! Over the years however, I got bored with my job, married within my hometown to a nice man who also loves travelling and we even spent a romantic honeymoon in Rajasthan recently. But my question is , ‘Can we girls just pack our bags ALONE one sunny morning and leave for unexplored horizons?’
Theoretically speaking, it’s not that difficult when you earn your own moolah and can get a one week leave from work but the fact of the matter is that we Indian women have just too many strings attached to us. We would like to believe that we can just get going with a backpack informing our parents the day before but the truth is that stepping out of our comfort zone or more aptly the ‘comfort zone of our parents’ when we are traveling ‘emni emni‘ or ‘just like that for the sake of traveling’, everyone we know has only tragic tales of single women travellers who were kidnapped,killed,raped,molested (et al,my friends,ET AL!) to throw at our direction, and the typical ‘Maa‘ will probably feign an illness just so you don’t actually end up boarding that flight you booked to Goa or Andaman or even Digha (the nearest beach from Kolkata!) So, what triggers these wild reactions? Why do people have the notion ‘akele ladki ko dekhenge toh chedenge hi na!’? As if it’s the most natural thing in the world to molest a single girl. When will men grow up or educate their private parts to behave themselves around helpless women?? I mean, what’s the point of being a civilized human being if you are still treated like a bitch on the road who is hounded by ten dogs at the same time?!
Well, for now, I limit my ‘wanderlust’ to my conversations with my best friend and make unsuccessful plans with my married girl friends to visit Goa when in reality that would mean facing not one but two sets of Indian parents….which is almost an insurmountable hurdle for the bravest of us Bong girls!
You are welcome to leave your comments below about why you think Indian women are still far behind in the travel scene (a staggering 94% women have officially denied that they would want to travel alone!!)
So long , girls! Have a happy Sunday! 🙂